The SNP have triumphed in an Aberdeen by-election, taking a “thumping victory” over the Tories who were more than 600 votes behind in second place.
The party’s candidate Audrey Nicoll has been elected as councillor for Torry/Ferryhill after receiving the most votes with 1,618.
The Scottish Conservatives’ Neil Murray came in second with 972 votes, while Labour’s Willie Young trailed in third place with 395 votes.
Voters in Torry/Ferryhill went to the polls yesterday to elect a new councillor following the resignation of SNP member Catriona Mackenzie.
Newly-elected councillor Mrs Nicoll said she was “delighted” by the result which saw her receive a 43.2% share of the vote.
She added: “It has been quite a hard campaign. The weather has been against us in the middle of November and there’s a lot of other things going on.
“I’m absolutely chuffed to bits and I want to give a big thank you to the voters who came out and put their faith in me which is fantastic.
“I also want to give a massive thank you to all the activists and volunteers who have really made this campaign happen and brought about the result tonight.”
The former policewoman, was involved in the establishment of the force’s first serious sexual offences specialist investigation unit, said she thinks being a “people person” helped deliver the positive result.
She added: “My background is very much in public service. I love speaking to people.
“I come from a background where you were expected to listen to what people had to tell you and act on it and I hope that some of that experience has helped me start to engage with people in Torry and Ferryhill.”
The by-election result means the ruling Conservative, Aberdeen Labour and independent administration have just a single member majority.
SNP group leader Stephen Flynn said the result marked an “absolutely thumping victory” for the SNP.
He added: “Audrey was a fantastic candidate and will make an even better councillor.
“It’s an absolutely thumping victory for the SNP.
“Having a by-election in the depths of winter was always going to be tough but we took that challenge on and we won by a huge margin.
“It’s brilliant to have the people of Torry/Ferryhill put their faith in an SNP councillor.”
Mr Flynn puts the success of his party’s campaign down to its focus on “local issues”.
He said: “Audrey was very heavily focusing on local issues.
“She spoke to thousands of residents over the course of the campaign and they know that if they elected an SNP councillor they would have a strong voice in Aberdeen City Council.”
Douglas Lumsden, Scottish Conservative group leader and co-leader of the council, said he was “disappointed” by the result but added he was pleased the party had maintained their share of the vote.
He added: “It’s really clear, especially coming up to the election for Aberdeen South, that we’re the only unionist party that can challenge the SNP.
“It’s either us or the SNP on December 12.”
Under-fire councillor Ryan Houghton was at last night’s count, joined by Scottish Conservative group colleagues despite party bosses pulling their support from his candidacy for Aberdeen North in next month’s General Election amid accusations of anti-Semitism and homophobia.
He has been suspended by the party, and told he would receive no backing in his campaign in the run up to the election, after a number of comments made online more than seven years ago were unearthed.
Mr Houghton has strongly denied any accusations that he is anti-Semitic or homophobic.
Mr Lumsden was asked whether the recent controversy, along with allegations former Aberdeen South MP Ross Thomson had sexually assaulted a Labour MP in a Commons bar, claims he strenuously denies, had damaged the party’s reputation in the city.
He said: “I don’t think it has harmed us at all.
“We look forward now to the General Election in three weeks time.
“Voters have a clear choice, it’s either us or the SNP.”
Liberal Democrat candidate Gregor McAbery came in fourth place with 315 votes, followed by Betty Lyon of the Scottish Green Party on 304 votes, independent Simon McLean with 86 and UKIP’s Roy Hill on 53 votes.
Despite coming in fourth, Liberal Democrat group leader Ian Yuill said his party had made “substantial progress” in just two years since the last council election, receiving 3.3% more of the vote share.
He added: “From our point of view it’s a very satisfactory result and we are looking forward to the next General Election and to the next council elections in 2022.
“The Liberal Democrat fight back continues. We’ve still got a way to go but we’re confident we’re heading in the right direction.
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“It was very noticeable during the campaign that people who were still voting Conservative or SNP were saying they were giving serious thought to us and we did seem to pick up a number of second preference votes.”
He added that the Labour Party was clearly in “serious trouble” in Aberdeen, following last night’s by-election result and another in Bridge of Don last month, which saw them knocked into fourth place, behind the Liberal Democrats.
The ward is already represented by SNP councillor Christian Allard, Conservative Alan Donnelly and Aberdeen Labour member Yvonne Allan.
The Bridge of Don by-election saw a Conservative and SNP councillor elected to the local authority, after the Tories topped the polls with the SNP coming in second.